View Full Version : Tour of Richmond Gran Fondo, October 6th 2012

07-23-2012, 09:15 AM

October 6th seems to be a pretty busy day for big century rides. Has anyone looked into this at all? Normally, I'd probably skip it, but my in-laws live in Richmond, so logistically it's very easy for me (the course practically runs through their backyard). It's a little spendy, but the price includes a t-shirt, medal, timing chip, etc...so I may try it. My big concern is that this is the inaugural race, so there may be some 1st time kinks. Looks like an easy course though, so it should be suited for trying to get a good overall time.


07-23-2012, 09:36 AM
Have not done that one, or any of the other "Grand Fondos". My impression is that these are kind of pricey, and racy (neither of these appeal to me.) I can't say about the Richmond one specifically though.

A nice event I've done a couple of times is the RABA century in September:


10-07-2012, 07:57 PM
Well, I have to say I was extremely impressed with this event. From the organization, to the support, to the post-ride party, everything was top notch.


Since my in-laws live in Richmond, my wife and I went down the night before, but my father-in-law was able to pick up our race packets on our behalf. Every rider was chipped to keep their time, in gran fondo style, which I think lent a competitive air to the whole ride. There was a 25 mile ride, a 59 mile ride, and the 102 mile gran fondo. My wife and father-in-law did the 59 mile route*. I like the way they set up the routes...basically, the race finish and 102 mile start were at Richmond International Raceway, and the 59 and 25 mile routes followed the same course as the 102 mile route, just starting at their respective distances from the end point. The organizers provided shuttles for riders needing rides back to their cars at the 59 and 25 mile start points.

On the morning of the race, I took my bike to the raceway and my wife and father-in-law drove to the 59 mile start point, then after the race, we dropped my father-in-law drove my father-in-law back to his car so he didn't have to take the shuttle. Given the size of the event, I think this was probably better than trying to do 3 separate routes using the same start point.

The 102 mile ride started at 7am sharp, with the lead pack (riders picked their average speed group when registering) getting a police escort for the entire route, and then the other groups rolled out based on claimed average speed. I rolled out with the 15-17mph group...I gotta say, the people in this group either lied or have no clue what average speed means because I spent the first 12 miles hemmed in by people doing about 13mph. Getting clear was tough because there were 400 riders and the route was not conducive to passing in those first few miles. Also, it was obvious to me that people in the Richmond area don't do a lot of group rides...no one was pointing out obstacles or holding their lines or just riding particularly attentively. But after I was able to get clear, it was smooth sailing.

Probably the most notable thing about the ride was the support from local LEOs. I guess something like 8 jurisdictions provided officers, who were present at almost every controlled intersection, holding up cars and waving cyclists through. Over the entire course, I only had to stop once for a light/stop sign, which was in the last mile of the ride and in a busy urban area. In addition to holding up traffic, the LEOs were extremely friendly, mostly waving and cheering cyclists went by. One motorcycle officer nearly scared my wife off her bike when, on his motorcycle, he cheered for her group through his loudspeaker while overtaking them! Drivers also seemed to be very tolerant despite the road closures, so kudos to everyone in the Richmond area.

The organizers put up seven, very well-stocked rest stations over the entire course and the volunteers were extremely friendly. I ended up skipping two or three of the stops because I just didn't need them, but it was nice to know I never had to wait long for a break if I wanted one. At the end of the ride, there was a nice BBQ lunch, with live music, and the registration price even included a beer. T-shirts, medals, and a bunch of small freebies also were included.

The route was pretty good, but some of the roads, particularly through the city, were kinda rough. But this was more than compensated for by the city closing off lanes of traffic just for bikes and stopping traffic for bikes to roll through every intersection. The weather was perfect too...a little chilly in the morning, but it got nice and warm in later in the day. The wind picked up later in the day, so the final 15 miles, which headed right into the wind, were exhausting. But it was a perfect day for a ride overall.

Sadly, there were A LOT of wrecks. I personally saw two riders, in two different incidents, being taken away on stretchers...the problem seemed to be that there were some tight turns on some short descents. I think some of it went back to unskilled riders riding in large groups. During the Civil War Century, which was twice the size, I don't think there was a single major crash. The positive side is that EMS seemed to be extremely responsive.

I finished with a rolling time of 5:42, for an average speed of 17.8, over 102 miles and 3700+ feet of climbing. I was shooting for 17mph, so I was pretty pleased, especially since the route was hillier than I expected. I was over 18mph until those last 15mph, but the wind was making it tough to maintain even 15-16mph for that stretch. My chip time was 6:22 (elapsed), putting me at 163rd out of the 401 doing the 102 mile route. Total ridership was 842 according to the race organizers. Not a huge event, but pretty good for an inaugural event in a city not really known for cycling and a great sign for future events.

A couple of additional notes/observations:

-Richmonders can't climb for sh*t. I'm guessing this is because there are few hills of note in the Richmond area. The first "hill" came at about mile 5 and was comparable to the DCA overpasses on the MVT, just slightly longer, but it slowed some people down (remember this is the claimed 15-17mph group) to about 5mph, with one person even dropping their chain downshifting to their granny gear! And there were several times that I'd get into groups pulling like 20-22mph on the flats, but that slowed to about 6mph on short hills...so I just had to pass them and go back to riding solo.

-My father-in-law noted that the LEOs likely were so accommodating, at least in part, because they were using this as a test run for the 2015 UCI World Championship. I gotta say, if the Richmond area is getting its sh*t together this early and able to do such a great job on their first attempt, the 2015 races are going to be a model for other US cities.

-Through all the neighborhoods we rode through, people were sitting on their lawns, or standing on corners cheering for riders...this gives me hope that this event did a lot to get people in Richmond interested in cycling and the city will really start building cycling infrastructure in the lead-up to 2015.

-Porta potty floors are extremely slippery if the yellow rubber pads are worn off your road cleats.

-Hills in the rural areas of Richmond really sneak up on you because of narrow, tightly curved roads with lots of trees overhead. My Garmin would be reading 5% grade (it usually seems pretty accurate) and the road would appear completely flat...it was very disorienting.

*my wife would like everyone to know that she also got a medal because she finished, 59 whole miles!

10-08-2012, 09:29 AM
Nice review, thanks! These sorts of posts are great for people who maybe haven't done these sorts of rides to get a feel for how they work.

07-19-2013, 10:06 AM
Was looking at the organizer's site (http://www.sportsbackers.org/events/tour-richmond/event-details) last night for the first time. Am seriously considering signing up this year for my first ever century (eekkkk!). Your very comprehensive write-up is excellent and answered a lot of questions as well as raised new ones I hadn't considered.

Do you wish you'd signed up for the next faster group? I'm not super fast but I think I have more riding experience than a lot of the folks you describe.

It doesn't appear that there are any mega hills to worry about; is that true?

Note: this year's ride is held on the same day as the Seagull Century so I'm hoping fewer people will sign up (thus less crowding).

07-22-2013, 11:01 AM
Sorry for the late-ish reply...wanted to type it on a real keyboard.

From what I remember, the groups were not really enforced at the start line, so it didn't really matter what speed group you signed up with. They staggered start, with the faster speeds going first, and instructed people to roll out with whatever group they fit with. I think I rolled out with the 15mph group and definitely regretted that, since I was stuck going about 13mph for the first few miles. I'll probably go with the 17-19mph group (or whatever is closest to that) or even the 20mph group, and just let them pass me if needed.

Definitely no big hills...I'd say it's about the equivalent of riding out to Purcellville and back, but with rollers instead of the few longer, gradual climbs on the W&OD.

07-22-2013, 11:16 AM
I've signed up for both the Tour of Richmond and the Seagull (would be my first time for either one). I'll have to make my mind up soon which one I'll ride. I'm leaning towards Richmond since my son will be a freshman at VCU and I can go to campus in my cycling gear and embarass him. ;)

08-16-2013, 11:32 AM
Well I signed up for the full 102 route. It'll be my first century. And I sure hope TwoWheels isn't downplaying how hilly it is.

08-16-2013, 01:11 PM
Well I signed up for the full 102 route. It'll be my first century. And I sure hope TwoWheels isn't downplaying how hilly it is.

My first century too!

10-04-2013, 03:07 PM
Alright -- it's tomorrow. I'm getting antsy. Driving down tonight after the wife is done at work.* Anyone else from the forum doing the full 10[6]?

*Work? Remember that? The thing that people did before they were deemed non-essential? Yeah, I don't remember it, either.

10-04-2013, 03:15 PM
Look for me in my VeloDCity red jersey on the 106 mile route. I'll be on the road well before the crack of dawn to be at the Richmond International Raceway Park by the crack of dawn! Mapping the 9/23 version of the route on ridewithgps came back with 4800 feet of elevation gain with the biggest climb on Old Gun Rd (I think miles 18 - 20 ish).

10-04-2013, 03:32 PM
Look for me in my VeloDCity red jersey on the 106 mile route. I'll be on the road well before the crack of dawn to be at the Richmond International Raceway Park by the crack of dawn! Mapping the 9/23 version of the route on ridewithgps came back with 4800 feet of elevation gain with the biggest climb on Old Gun Rd (I think miles 18 - 20 ish).

Strava shows 3300 feet of climbing for my ride last year. I'll be rolling out in the 18-20mph group this year, since I ended up with a 17mph+ speed last year, when I wasn't in nearly as good shape. I also plan to cut down my stops to maybe just one or two.

I've got this year's route all mapped out, with the route updates: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3139596

Old Gun is definitely the biggest "climb", but north of the river there are some interesting rollers where the combination of terrain and vegetation make for a lot of false flats. Last year, the wind picked up for the last 15 miles, which kinda sucked, but otherwise it's a nice route.

10-04-2013, 03:40 PM
Similar forecast to today with minimal NW winds in the morning changing to minimal S winds in the afternoon. With temperatures in the 80s, remember to hydrate, it may be necessary to hit more than one of two rest stops to refill the bottles.

10-07-2013, 09:13 AM
TwoWheels & Consular: I hope you guys had a good ride. I finished . . . eventually. It was my first century(+) and I ended up availing myself of the rest stops quite a bit. Hopefully next year won't be so hot!

10-07-2013, 09:40 AM
TwoWheels & Consular: I hope you guys had a good ride. I finished . . . eventually. It was my first century(+) and I ended up availing myself of the rest stops quite a bit. Hopefully next year won't be so hot!

Nice work! I was conflicted this year, as I generally like to take advantage of the stops, since I paid for them, but I was also trying to get the fastest time I could. I ended up stopping at mile 38, 68, and I think 78. I was doing really well until the stop at mile 68, where I got stuck without a group to ride with, so I withered in the heat alone and ultimately decided to pull off at the next stop to see if I could find a group. Thankfully, I found a pretty big paceline there and we kept a brisk pace until the last few miles when it broke apart on the 295 overpass...but by then I had recovered and was able to keep pushing at a decent pace. Although I stayed well-hydrated, I felt a little feverish for a few hours afterward, but overall I recovered pretty quickly.

10-07-2013, 10:36 AM
grandallj - congratulations on your first century! I finished Saturday's ride with my best overall time ever! I kept trying to stay out of groups, but probably ended up riding almost half the ride as part of one group or another. I also skipped the the first and last two stops, but also stopped at mile 49 to keep both water bottles full. After the ride I had really sore knees and my right thigh cramped up when I got out of my car at VCU. While I think I had adequate hydration, my electrolyte replenishment was inadequate.

FYI: My Garmin gave me only 3400 feet of elevation gain from this year's route.